With the 70.3 World Championships fast-approaching, we thought now was the perfect time to gather some 'intel' from several of our top #TeamPH athletes.
All of these athletes have experience in Nice, from winning the full distance race at the French resort to those who have done a 'recce' of the course in preparation for the World Championships, and they've combined to provide a comprehensive race preview that is packed full of great advice...
It’s a pretty straight forward one-loop course in the Mediterranean Sea. It's in a clockwise direction and the first turn buoy is at 800m into the swim, and 400m later you will hit the second turn buoy, followed by 700m into the beach.
Should we expect to see a wetsuit or non-wetsuit swim?
Carrie Lester, 2019 IRONMAN Nice & Mont Tremblant Champion, & two-time top-10 Kona Finisher: For the pros, I expect a non-wetsuit swim. Age Group athletes could be borderline wetsuit/non-wetsuit.
The water is very salty and buoyant, so I would highly recommend AG athletes try swimming in both before the race in order to get a feel for the water.
Stuart Anderson, Team Freespeed athlete & multiple World Championships qualifier: Most likely to be a wetsuit swim, the highest water temp recorded in September is 23.5 degrees (74.3°F), so we’d need to see another heatwave for it to creep up enough for it become a non-wetsuit swim.
What have you learned from the swim course?
Stuart: Be prepared for the initial steep shelf drop off from the stony beach into the sea. It's basically one step in and then a dive. The sea was choppy in each instance that I swam, but crystal clear with great visibility below the water line.
Scott DeFilippis, Professional triathlete & coach of Age Group World Champions: It's an open sea swim so if the wind is up then some chop can be expected. If the wind is offshore in the morning, then expect light to moderate chop coming back to shore.
The start will be from the rocky shore, dive in and go as the shelf drops off immediately, so you won't be able to touch the bottom once you dive in. The water is very salty and quite buoyant.
Enjoy an open water swim before the race without your wetsuit so you can feel how nice the water is.
Check out TeamFreespeed's swim course preview:
(Source: Team Freespeed YouTube)
Probably one of the hilliest courses you will see in a 70.3 race course, and the course profile is definitely an iconic one! A challenging course that will lead you to the Col de Vence.
The descent is absolutely spectacular through the most beautiful villages in France. Make the most of this course between the sea and the mountains. You’ll have 4 aid stations across the course, at miles 11.6, 22.4, 37, and ~47.
Some insightful tips from Team Freespeed's Mark Matthews and Stuart Anderson:
(Source: Team Freespeed YouTube)
The biggest discussion topic for the 70.3 Worlds is the bike course. It has 4,485ft (1,367m) of elevation gain over the 56 miles. What is the best piece of advice you can give after riding the course?
Jenny Gowans, Team Manager of Team Freespeed & silver medallist at 2019 Age Group Sprint Championships: Col de Vence shouldn't be underestimated but there's actually a lot of time after the climb to recover and compose yourself before T2, so I think you can push reasonably hard on the climb.
Scott: It will be very quick run to the ascent. Use the first few miles to let your heart rate come down from the swim and T1. Perhaps take a gel and get in some fluids.
The lower part of the climb will be steeper than the middle and upper climb. In this race it's ok to perhaps put in an Olympic Distance effort from the base to the top of Col de Vence as you'll have a long descent to recover for the run.
Stuart: It’s not going to be an 'uber-quick' 90km PR bike course, be prepared for this.
Bike choice is crucial; do you take a road bike with clip-on TT bars or a time trial bike?
Your decision needs to be based on how well you feel that you climb and descend on both, especially considering there will be considerable athlete traffic ahead of you. This will mean that you’ll not always be able to take the racing line.
Any notable points on the descent?
Carrie: These are rather technical, most of the roads are good. But you do pass through many small French towns with narrow roads and some rougher road surfaces.
If you haven't been able to ride this part of the course or aren't so comfortable descending, don't take any risks during this section of the course.
Go at your own pace and ALWAYS be aware of who is around you when you're going into corners.
Stuart: The descent is mega technical, you’ll be on the brakes a lot. There are switchbacks, closed corners, off camber cornering, gravel and wet roads from mountain run-off. This is compounded by some rough bumpy road surfaces in places.
Choose the bike that you feel most comfortable on, there’s no point smashing it uphill if you then lose all that time descending safely. You may want to run slightly lower pressure in your tyres (85-90 PSI) for more comfort.
Scott: If you haven’t ridden in the mountains, simply take your time, don't take risks!
There aren't too many steep parts of the descent and with many turns, all competitors will have to slow their speed to get around the hairpin turns. Use this time to recover and fuel for the run.
Keep right at all times so that faster riders can get by you with no issues. Also be on the lookout for small rocks that sometimes fall off the cliff.
If you encounter a puncture on the descent, don't panic. Slowly bring yourself to a stop and move to a safe place to change your flat.
Any tips on how to make the most out of pre-riding the course, specifically the descent?
Carrie: To save time, you can drive most of the course and maybe just ride the descent.
The first part of the course until you hit Col de Vence will be rather busy with traffic. So it would be fine to drive this part, and then ride up Vence and the descent, before then driving the flatter final part back into town.
Jenny: Identify the parts where you can let the bike run and get down on your bars. Also think about the line you may need to take with multiple people on the road.
What type of pacing advice would you give to someone on a bike course like this?
Carrie: Don't overdo the first 10km to the start of climbing or the first short climb. These could ruin the rest of the day. But once over the first climb there's a fast rolling section to the base of Col de Vence - this is where I'd start to put in some effort as plenty of time to recover and regroup after the Col before the end of the bike.
Stuart: There are a number of ways to race this course, depending on your racing style. Most straightforward is to race on power with a 15% increase on some of the steepest bits.
Alternatively, it's possible to attack Col de Vence and recover on the rolling section along the top before the descent. My best advice is to decide your pace plan and stick to it.
Which bike to use?
If you watched the video above from Team Freespeed you will know that they're all planning to use their Triathlon/TT bikes.
I wanted to look at the course from a pure data/analytical stand point to provide an opinion based on that, with a few caveats.
I set up the course and a few different bike setups in BestBikeSplit.com, so let’s take a look at what that looks like and how that may help you choose what setup works for you.
All of these runs used the same bike 'setup' settings, and just the weight was reduced.
With the different setups that I ran I found a 60/90 wheel setup was the fastest on both the TT and road bike.
Run #1 - @25lbs // Total Time: 2:22:51 // Time to top of climb: 1:27:06
Run#2 - @23lbs // Total Time: 2:22:16 // Time to top of climb: 1:26:27
Run#3 - @20lbs // Total Time: 2:21:31 // Time to top of climb: 1:25:45
Run#4 - @18lbs // Total Time: 2:21:00 // Time to top of climb: 1:25:19
Run #1 - @22lbs // Total Time: 2:28:48 // Time to top of climb: 1:29:39
Run #2 - @20lbs // Total Time: 2:28:20 // Time to top of climb: 1:28:59
Run#3 - @17lbs // Total Time: 2:27:33 // Time to top of climb: 1:28:33
Run#4 - @15lbs // Total Time: 2:27:06 // Time to top of climb: 1:27:52
I was actually quite surprised that the TT Bike was so much quicker on this course, and I am going to assume this is because analysis assumes the rider is able to take full advantage of the descent on their TT bike.
As you can see you would be looking at ~6-7mins of difference by using your TT bike. The one reason I would be wary of athletes opting for their TT bike over a road bike, is if they're not confident in their descending abilities, and then all the time that you may gain on the TT bike would easily be given up on the descent.
One other thing to note is the massive effect on the weight of the bike/setup. I would highly encourage you to be very aware of how many bottles and 'extras' you're carrying.
If I was racing this course, I would most definitely ensure that all bottles were empty and would rely heavily on the aid stations (+ SweatSalts for your electrolytes!) while ascending the Col de Vence.
Getting in your calories and fluid in the first flat section would be very wise, and will set you up for a faster climb. Once at the top of the climb, you can then get in another solid amount of calories to ensure you don’t turn up to T2 depleted.
Don’t stress over the bike decision, but with a little bit of data and basing the choice on your confidence in descending, you should have a pretty good idea of what bike will be best for you.
Want to see what the course looks like? Checkout this course preview video from IRONMAN’s YouTube Channel:
Source: IRONMAN Youtube.
The run will take you along the legendary Promenade des Anglais, between the sea and the palm trees. The course will be lined with thousands of spectators to support and push you to the historic finish-line. It’s going to be flat and fast, so make sure you don’t use all of your matches on the bike course, otherwise you’ll be walking the promenade like a tourist on a Sunday stroll.
The run course seems pretty much flat and fast, is there anything to be noted on the course?
Carrie: As you say, it's flat and fast, and September should see cooler temperatures than June when they host the full Ironman. It can still be hot and there's no shade whatsoever, so staying cool and hydrated will be most important.
Scott: It's a long way to the turn around so don't look too far ahead! The promenade can be hot so use the aid stations to keep cool.
Dee Allen, Team Freespeed: It's a two-lap course, out and back along the front, so break it down into sections and don’t get carried away by starting off too fast, which is easily done on a fast, flat course.
Build into the race, keep well hydrated and have fun out there. I can imagine the atmosphere will be amazing so embrace it, absorb it and race your own race!
Other insightful info from the athletes...
What is the course "highlight" in your opinion?
Stuart: It's definitely about the bike and the run, the strongest bike/runner athletes will come out on top.
For me the highlight is the bike course. The climbing aspect makes it 'very honest’. I don't expect to see drafting.
The technical descending means that it favours good bike handlers with experience of fast, nailbiting cornering.
Scott: It's very rare to have a race with such a long climb like this. Athletes will experience one of the most famous mountain-tops in Nice. Just before you get to the top you will have some amazing views of the city and sea below.
Dee: The climb, on a nice day it will be beautiful and I’m sure it won’t be forgotten in a hurry, no matter your result! A course like no other.
Anything to be wary of on the course?
Carrie: When you're out on the bike course, and going through the smaller French villages, the roads are narrow and there are some bumps. Be aware of others around you, don't take risks and always look up.
Dee: The descent on the bike, especially if wet. Don’t take any risks.
Favourite place to eat in town?
Stuart: There's plenty of choice in Nice to suit every budget. If you like pizza, 'Les Amoureux’ is good.
Scottie: You pretty much can't go wrong. Such great pizza and pasta joints on every other corner.
Dee: Loads of nice little restaurants just off Promenade des Anglais in the Old Town.
Any top sightseeing/tourist recommendations pre/post race?
Scott: At the north of the promenade is the famous #lovenice sign. It's a nice walk from transition to here, then around the bend to the marina where you will see some amazing yachts. There are also some really cool places to cliff jump in this area. Follow the locals.
Carrie: Take a short drive to Monaco, or even just hang on the beach off the Promenade.
Stuart: The little bays the other side of the harbour are great for relaxing, sunbathing and chilling out. They’re also great for training/practice swims away from other athletes.
Jenny: Head past Nice towards Villefranche-sur-Mer and have a swim off some of the cliff areas. Also worth heading to the infamous climb in Eze if you have enough time before (or after so that it won't ruin your legs!).
Dee: Nice is a beautiful and iconic city full of heritage and history, there will be plenty to do. Or chill on the beach with some post-race ice cold beers, praying the sun comes out!
Source: Purple Patch Fitness ©